Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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PAGAN SURVIVALS
the successor of some god, and bad luck came if the custom were not observed. Probably these rites were transferred to Martinmas from the old Celtic festival of Samhain. Again, in a strange Irish legend the saint himself is said to have been cut up and eaten in the form of an ox.73
In the wine-producing regions of Germany Martinmas was the day for the first drinking of the new wine, and the feasting in general on his day gave the saint the reputation of a guzzler and a glutton ; it even became customary to speak of a person who had squandered his substance in riotous living as a Martinsmann.74 As we have seen survivals of sacrifice in the Martinmas slaughter, so we may regard the Martimminne or toast as originating in a sacrifice of liquor.75 In the Bohmerwald it is believed that wine taken at Martinmas brings strength and beauty, and the lads and girls gather in the inns to drink, while a common German proverb runs :
" Heb an Martini, Trink Wein per circulum anni." * 76
Here, by the way, is a faint suggestion that Martinmas is regarded as the beginning of the year ; as such it certainly appears in a number of legal customs, English, French, and German, which existed in the Middle Ages and in some cases in quite recent times. It was often at Martinmas that leases ended, rents had to be paid, and farm-servants changed their places.77
There is a survival, perhaps, of a cereal sacrifice or sacrament in the so-called " Martin's horns," horseshoe pastries given at Martinmas in many parts of Germany.78 Another kind of sacrifice is suggested by a Dutch custom of throwing baskets of fruit into Martinmas bonfires, and by a German custom of casting in empty fruit-baskets.79 In Venetia the peasants keep over from the vintage a few grapes to form part of their Martinmas supper, and as far south as Sicily it is considered essential to taste the new wine at this festival.80
Bonfires appear at Martinmas in Germany, as at All Hallows tide in the British Isles. On St. Martin's Eve in the Rhine
* " Raise the glass at Martinmas, drink wine all through the year."
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